To Jewish Lens Main Page

JOIN Jewish Lens


The following activities can be added to any of the Jewish Lens lessons if time allows, or if the educator wants to provide students with an additional take home project.

Framing the Story

Ask students to find a family photograph (of their parents, grandparents, etc.) and bring it into class. In groups, have the students look at the photographs and describe what is in them/tell their story. Encourage them to look closely, examining the setting, clothing, facial expressions and so on. The students then re-enact the photographs together, capturing the re-enactment as a photograph.
Review the two images side by side as a class. These photographs connect the past with the present, both an old and ongoing story. Ask the groups questions, such as:

  • What are the differences between the two images?
  • What are the similarities?
  • What did everyone capture well in the re-enactment photo?
  • What was missing?
  • What has changed over the years?
  • How does the past shed light on the current reality?
  • What do we take with us as we move forward?

Alternatively, you can set this task as a homework activity and the students can re-enact the scene with their family.
For inspiration, take a look at these photo re-enactments from the Beit Hatfutsot collection.

This activity is part of the ‘G2G: Generation to Generation’ program at Beit Hatfutsot. To learn more about the program, and additional intergenerational opportunities click here.

Behind the Scenes

Ask each student to bring in a photograph from home (this can be one that they have taken themselves or a family photograph). Spread the images out on a table in class and ask the students to take a few minutes looking at the different photographs, choosing one that they like or identify with in some way (not their own). Once they have chosen an image, ask them to look closely at it and think about what the story behind the scene might be.

Ask a few of the students to tell the class the story that they imagined to be behind the photo. Afterwards, ask the student who brought the photograph in to tell the real story. You can then compare the differences, as well as the connections between the two stories.
This is an interesting way to raise the issue of interpretation with the students and show how each person brings their own subjective view, contexts and knowledge to the interpretation of an image.
Questions for Discussion

  • What drew you to this photo?
  • What biases might you have based on where you were raised?
  • How does the truth behind the photo differ from what you expected?
  • Why do you think you expected the story behind the photo to be what you did?
  • Are there any commonalities between this photo and photos you have of your family?

Inspiring Jewish Photographers

David Seymour (Chim)
Co-founder of Magnum Photos, and a pioneer of the golden age of political photojournalism, Chim’s iconic photographs of Israel can be focused on in class. Chim made repeat visits to Israel, capturing the experiences of Jews from around the world making ‘Aliyah’ (immigrating to Israel): from the joyous arrival of new immigrants at Haifa Port to a group of women reciting the tashlich prayer on the beach in Tel Aviv. Through these and further portraits and landscapes, we can see some of the challenges faced by the pioneers during the first few years of the State of Israel as well as the connection both Chim, and his subjects, felt to the young country.

Frederic Brenner
“In 1981, Brenner undertook a chronicle of Jewish communities around the world, exploring what it means to live and survive with a portable identity: how Jews adopted the traditions and manners of their home countries and yet remained part of the Jewish people.  From Rome to New York, India to Yemen, Morocco to Ethiopia, Sarajevo to Samarkand, he spent 25 years in over 40 countries recording the diaspora of the Jews and creating a probing pursuit of the multiplicity of dissonant identities.” Source and more photographs:

Robert Capa’s photographs of Israel
In 1948, war photographer Robert Capa journeyed to Israel where he captured the lives of the people in their newly established homeland:

Adi Nes                                                                                                                  An Israeli hailing from Kiryat Gat who shows the Israeli Defense Force and Israeli men in general, in an unusual light. Through his work he emulates biblical scenes, social disparities, and core aspects of Israeli life and the human experience.

Leni Sonnenfeld

The photography of Leni Sonnenfeld captures pictorial treasures of 20th century Jewish history. Leni and her husband Herbert created a legacy of photography that lives on today through archives of their work available in the Beit Hatfutsot database and elsewhere. After fleeing Germany prior to the second World War, they continued their work in New York. Leni traveled with her camera to Morocco, Spain, Yemen, Iran, Ireland and Israel, where she documented Jewish life. Leni and Herbert Sonnenfeld left photographs that are a living memory to historical events in the history of the Jewish people since the 1930s and throughout the 20th century, both tragic and happy. Leni Sonnenfeld continued to take photographs right up to her death at the age of 96.

Eve Arnold
Raised in an Orthodox Jewish household, Arnold fell upon photography by chance. She later became the first American woman to be accepted into Magnum Photos. Eve was best known for her work capturing celebrities and politicians like Marilyn Monroe and Malcom X. However, those types of photos were her biggest sources of income, so she could fund more socially active ventures into the photography world. Such as capturing civil wars and social movements in places like Soviet Russia and China.

Questions for discussion:

  • What variances do you see in the subjects of their photos? Do you notice any repeating traits?
  • In your eyes, do the photos highlight Jewish themes?
  • Would you describe the work of all these photographers as Jewish? Is their work Jewish just because they are?
  • What was Chim trying to convey that can also be seen in the work of Arnold, Ozeri, or any of the other Jewish photographers?

Creative Response to Photography

Have students respond creatively to the work of the photographers above or any Jewish photographer of their choosing in a creative fashion.

Options/Ideas for creative response:

  • Video project
  • Painting/drawing inspired by or emulating one or several photos
  • Comic strip based on the photos
  • Collage of several photos emphasizing a message or theme that relates to your personal Jewish story



jewish lens logoo